The Walt Disney Corporation owns hundreds of other companies ranging from film, cable television, music, radio magazines, theme parks, and publishing houses. Such companies include Touchstone Pictures, The History Channel, ESPN Radio, Hollywood Records, Hyperion, Institutional Investor, and Tokyo Disney Resort. It is fascinating to think that a company known for producing cartoons controls so many unrelated companies. What does this say about the structure of the media, and what are the effects of cross media ownership?
The implications of cross media ownership are as vast as the number of secondary companies the Walt Disney Corporation owns. First, the larger corporations purchase the smaller companies and begin a system of hierarchy. The subordinate companies cannot compete with the corporate strength of a media conglomerate, and often lose their potential as a media outlet. What would happen if Touchstone Pictures decided to go against the beliefs of the Walt Disney Corporation? It can be predicted that a major controversy would ensue, where the corporate dominancy of Disney would prevail. The Walt Disney Corporation is the more affluent company, meaning that it is more likely to coerce the public and the companies it owns with violence or threats to express its leadership. The smaller companies are obligated to agree with the perspectives of the parent company. Therefore, biased, inaccurate information is disseminated to the public, leading individuals to make uninformed decisions about their environment. If Walt Disney is responsible for the information we view, our culture is on the receiving end of misleading facts. In this analysis, the Walt Disney Corporation can be considered a synecdoche for the issue of media hegemony, as it represents how one company can control many others, and in turn, society.
Moreover, these large corporations are so financially conscious that they do not consider the consequences of their company on the public. Robert W. McChesney states that, “Consumerism, class inequality and individualism tend to be taken as natural and benevolent, whereas political activity, civic values and anti-market activities are marginalized” (McChesney 3). I agree with McChesney, as a company such as the Walt Disney Corporation projects its opinions on the impressionable public, removing any autonomy the public had from the media. Because this company owns so many other businesses, it is nearly impossible for an individual to be uninfluenced by the intrusion of Disney. With cross media ownership, issues on the corporate mindset supersede issues that should take precedence in society.
McChesney also states that as media conglomerates expand their reign of control, they encourage homogeny amongst our culture (McChesney 3). The characteristics that make our culture unique will be forgotten, because the same major media corporations are continuously displaying their perspectives. This encourages society to lose its eccentricities and conform to a corporate design, where all thoughts and beliefs will be identical. If major media corporations are controlling what is revealed to the public, than society will begin to form its reality based upon what is presented. In a media sense, cross ownership also detracts from democracy. If a select group of corporations control what we see and do, they are expressing a type of tyranny that removes democracy and freedom from the public.
On the other hand, I do agree with some aspects of Henry Jenkins theories on how the media will never converge into one controlling system. In “Convergence? I Diverge,” Jenkins argues that it is not a company who will take over our culture, but the media in itself. I do think that the media will become extraordinarily ubiquitous, in that we will not be able to decipher between what comes from the media and what comes from fact. However, I disagree with Jenkins because I believe the financial superiority of major corporations will allow them to purchase other companies until one corporation owns them all. The convergence of media is a process, but it is possible that all major corporations will merge into one.
As major media corporations overtake smaller companies, society will be robbed of its right to make informed decisions and be independent. It is the leadership of companies such as the Walt Disney Corporation who create this hierarchy with their financial power, preventing multiple perspectives from being presented to the public. Based on these suppositions, one can conclude that cross media ownership has an abundance of negative impacts on society.
Jenkins, Henry. “Convergence? I Diverge.” June 2001.
Technology Review. 17 Nov. 2009. <http://web.mit.edu/cms/People/henry3/converge.pdf>.
McChesney, Robert W. “The New Global Media: It’s a Small World of Big Conglomerates.” 11 Nov. 1999. The Nation. 3 Nov. 2009. <http://www.thenation.com/doc/19991129/mcchesney/3>.